Updated: Dec 24, 2019
Finally the time has arrived... I am blogging! It will take a short while during all of the new transitions with my schedule but you will be seeing continuous updates on my travels with new content posted as often as I can! With my main focus being on my Photo Workshops through India and the prearrangement of the longest continues trip through India I have conducted, being one year in duration, you will see lots of information concerning these things.
FOUR DAYS LEFT
03. December 2018: Just four days left to the flight towards India. I'm very excited and I hope I´ve got the most things into my bag I need during the one year trip. The last few weeks were very exhausting. I've founded a travel company, edited my brand new website. terminated my apartment, reduced my goods to fiew boxes and placed it by a friend in a basement, I've selled my car and bought lot of photographic equipment.
My bag is full with technical gadgets: 4 lenses, 3 cameras, 2 flashes, a drone, a gimble, a notebook, a tripod, a reflector, an external monitor and the whole charging and wire equipment around it. I'm amazed that everything fits in my backpack together with few personal things like shoes, clothes and hygiene products. I think I'm reasonably prepared now.
ONE YEAR PASSED ALREADY!
25.11.2019: I am working for the first time on this blog, after being in India for almost a year now. For someone who wanted to blog his one-year trip and was promising this in public, that's actually very shameful and I would like to summarize briefly how it came about it. To write everything down as planned before, I would need a lot of time and my photographic work would suffer greatly. Perhaps, however, if another of my plans can be implemented in the future, to publish a book about this trip, then I would certainly catch up on all the amazing details and stories.
D E E P I N D I A S T O R Y - T H E Y E A R 2 0 1 9
India has always been good for me for surprises and this time it did not change.
I first visited a friend in Junagadh, Gujarat. When I got back to New Delhi after one week, I instantly got a motorbike organized, with a luggage rack and an oversized metal box on it to protect my luggage in the most effective way. It was my own idea to do it. The attachment of the porter and the box was done by people who did not really want to build something like that. Besides, they did not have much imagination of what was needed to be done and in addition, they did not have much idea of the professional installation of such a construction. But they brought it on somehow. Although I had planned to get a vehicle after arriving in India, actually I thought of a car but that it will come as seen in the picture below, I would not have dreamed of it in my wildest dreams! This construction has been running for 22000 km and I'm sure it will hold another 22,000 km when continiously updated in a welding workshop. In addition, traveling by motorbike in India is much more comfortable, because you can drive around as high as any traffic jam, especially on mountain roads, where you can therefore spend the whole day, if you travel by car.
So I drove off the next day, for the very first time, fully loaded and without any preconceptions of this kind. The first 50 km were a bit awful, as I had no experience with this type of luggage attached to a motorcycle.
I thought about going to Haridwar, Uttarakhand, where I expected interesting faces and after to move north ways to reach Kashmir. When I arrived in Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand, I learned that an important lens could be repaired in New Delhi, so I drove back there to New Delhi. The repair of the lens has unfortunately not been successful, so I drove back north, this time a little westerly over Haryana and Punjab to finally reach Kashmir, because the winter was already in full swing and I was not sure what kind of snow chaos would expect me there.
JAMMU AND KASHMIR
In Jammu, I met a very nice shopkeeper who provided my metal box with promotional stickers and refused money, saying it was a gift from the heart. Things are possible! So I started driving towards Kashmir. I had new, huge letters on my luggage box and everyone knew from now on who overhauled or slowed him down.
After I almost froze to death : ) in Kashmir in January, I have been there for around three weeks, I drove all the way back over New Delhi to reach finally Allahabad, where the Kumbh Mela had been held for nearly a month. On the way I visited Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh and Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh as the all worth mentioning destinations.
I was very lucky beeing invited to Allahabad while the Kumbh Mela by a local friend so it was not necessary to book an overpaid tent on the Kumbh Mela ground and I could stay even with him. We used a tent of his friend at the Mela ground, responsible for the power supply during a power failure. What a great and crazy stay it was!
I spent about two weeks in Allahabad (Pryagraj) enjoying the Kumbh Mela, after which I spent a few days in Varanasi and then made my next funny idea: to travel all over the northeast of India, all seven states, including all their capitals. I came from West Bengal over Bihar and Assam was forced to be my first destination in the north east of India. I've been in Assam before, so I drove further southeast, to the state of Meghalaya. To get there by the shortest route, I took a ferry across the endless Brahmaputra River.
I really liked the state of Meghalaya, especially since I did not have a long driving experience with my truck motorcycle. There are many winding roads over hills and the road surface is mostly in surprisingly good condition. This is not common for India, especially for the North East. I learned to drive there very safely. Meghalaya has given me, in addition to the countless great moments also a very bitter experience. I lost my beloved drone there when I tried to fly it over the highest waterfall in India. The strong wind has devoured it. I think it was given by the fate, to save me from childish games. If I had a drone, I would certainly neglect everything else, and I do not think I'm a revolutionary drone pilot and I'm sure it would not bring it that far, as in portrait photography, so it's better that way. I will not buy a drone anymore in the future, unless it has a similar high quality optical device as the lenses I am using, then I would make an exception and get it, however, only for photography. My last destination in Meghalaya was Dawki, the capital of the betel nut, located just right on the border with Bangladesh.
My journey now took me to the indian state of Tripura, one of the most remote states in India. Enchanting landscapes, dreamy and very peaceful.
By now it will not have escaped me that I am crazy about sculpture. When I arrived in Panisagar, Tripura, I did not realize that there was a sculptural landscape in the immediate vicinity of this city, which is very old and very unusual. In the very sparse hotel where I was staying, a poster hung on the wall with the inscription: Unakoti. On it were figures carved in stone, which tied me up at the first sight. I realized it was daring again and could not assign it, but google could. The next day and 15 kilometers drive through the most beautiful jungle I have ever seen, I reached Unakoti.
Then came the Indian state Mizoram's turn. A state full of green hills, beautiful landscapes, and countless plants and animals, a dream destination to every wildlife photographer.
However, as I focus on the people and their customs, I have noticed that most of the residents are deeply devout Christians, even though they are more likely to be followers of the Buddhist religion in appearance. In Mizoram I also got through my first flat tire and was fortunate enough to get support from the management of my hotel, thank you Jenny! Otherwise the effort would have cost me much more time.
I finally reached Manipur, one of the least developed Indian states. There, of course, I looked at the capital, Imphal, which was remarkably civilized compared to what I had seen and experienced in the state before.
I will never forget my first overnight stay in Manipur. I passed the state border in the late afternoon. Since I would be reluctant to drive at night on the poor roads, I was looking for accommodation. There are hardly any on this route and if so, they are hardly distinguishable from other huts. They are used exclusively by local travelers and they know exactly where they can find it. Luckily google had Hotel Galaxy on the track in Sinzawl and I chose it as the destination. I reached the place after about an hour's drive in the light of day and I was sure happy about it. But that should change soon. At first I was quartered in a kind of barn, with a view of a pigsty and a toilet house, and asked for 0,70 Euro. The extremely cheap tariff did not surprise or delight me. I already suspected that staying in this place would not be fun, but I also knew that I had no choice but to stay one night, as I would not drive into the passing night and through a wasteland. After removing my most basic personal belongings, including the charger for my cell phone, I realized that this room had no power connection at all. It was a very frustrating experience, especially since my power bank was empty and I had to rely on my mobile phone for the onward journey. What to do? I decided to share my concerns with a small group of unfriendly people who were in the largest room, which was their living room, bedroom, and kitchen at the same time. So I figured out that I appeal to those responsible and not guests. It was like that. The nicest-looking man in the group apparently understood my simplified English and immediately went outside, talking about something I did not understand. I decided to follow him and watched him rummaging in a big wooden chest outside. As he did so, he kept talking without looking at me. After a short while, I realized that it was a clear attempt to speak English with me, but unfortunately his pronunciation was so unclear and most of the words more of a fantasy than a given. But since I was dependent on his help, I tried desperately to hear what he wants to convey to me as a consensus. As much as I struggled, I did not understand anything. But then suddenly the solution came to light as he pulled a sizeable roll of insulated wire out of the box and held it in front of my nose, smiling. Then he repeatedly said something I did not understand, ran off and disappeared around the corner. I did not feel that it would make any sense to follow him, so I went back to my room and stared at the three free beds, which were somehow cobbled together, same as mine, causing me back pain just because I looked at them. At the same time I thought of the wire role and what happened with it. I quite rhymed that the coil of wire should bring light into the gloomy room. I opened the window hatch when I heard the voice of the same man outside who spoke to me earlier. He talked gibberish again, but looked at me this time. His arm was stretched out in my direction and in his hand was a wire end, which he pressed into my hand and probably instructed me to hold on to it, but I only interpreted that. True, because when I had the future socket in my hand, he ran again, with the other end of the wire in his hand and began to attach it to the toilet house. Obviously, there was the next source of electricity. However, I had great concerns that this project would be successful because the toilet house was located about 50 meters from the shack in which I resided. But lo and behold, it worked flawlessly at the end, after the good man had connected the free-swinging line over 50 meters in length in my room as well. The way of connecting in the room itself was a lethal affair but you do not have to touch that, quite simply. After all, I had electricity available and that made my heart beat faster. Unfortunately not for long. Another man entered the room a moment later, without first noticing in any way. I found it very rude, but did not tell him. He immediately sat down on one of the wooden beds. He spoke a reasonably understandable English with a clear Asian accent. I did not like his appearance from the start, and when he ran into me with questioning input, I was a little startled. Why did this man want to know so much about me? I had briefly dismissed him and asked him to leave. He stopped asking questions but did not budge. Instead, he told me harshly that I might even get roommates, because I would have paid only one bed and three others were finally free. However, since I really appreciate a private atmosphere and he probably recognized my disappointment in the face, he quickly asked me if I wanted to book the other three beds as well. I did not want to but I had no choice and it was not really much money and so I agreed and handed him 150 Indian Rupees. As soon as he let the money disappear in his pocket, he said once again unfriendly that probably the whole assembled crew from the kitchen would leave the house for several hours, because there was something to celebrate. So I realized that I should stay alone in the house that evening until they come back, which was no problem for me. Then he went on to say something about evil neighbors and strange people who would probably roam the area. Although I did not get scared of that, but I did not realize what this man would probably say to me and I did not ask further, because I just wanted him to leave. He did so, having the looting money in his pocket and left the dusty room. Shortly thereafter, all other residents of the Hotel Galaxy left the area and I stayed alone. So far so good. After some time, I felt urgency, went out of the room and went through the kitchen to leave the house, because the toilet was outside, about 50 meters away. But when I opened the front door, I realized that it was locked and I was locked up in the house. I did not expect that. However, as I was alone on the whole yard, I decided to use the window hatch for my needs and was watched by grunting pigs. When the hosts returned, I already slept on all four booked beds in turns until the early morning.
The Indian state of Nagaland, which was my next destination, was rather disappointing. I had previously seen many pictures from Nagaland, which were mostly the of the Konyak tribe, concretely the last headhunters, with conspicuous tattoos on the face and the whole body. I wanted to take a closer look at these men and was therefore looking forward to Nagaland, where otherwise not much exciting awaits me. However, what is sometimes hyped in India as a highway is a rocky path that is passable only with fully off-road vehicles, if you consider it safety-oriented. However, as even today vehicles in India are being produced on a large scale without any protective devices, it is clear that this aspect has not yet gained a foothold in India, and thus road quality also plays a secondary role. The bad roads in India have a clear reason, but later. Already in Manipur I had travel days, to which I only ceaselessly advanced. Curvy and hilly scree slopes, sand, mud and sometimes wrinkled, torn asphalt patches in between. Nagaland was an ongoing challenge on the road from the beginning and so I gave up after a few days when I saw the endless winding trails on google maps that lay ahead of me around Mon, the area where Konyak tribe live, to reach.
I had intended to visit Arunachal Pradesh next, but as a foreigner you need a Protected Area Permit, which is only available in Guwahati, Assam, as Arunachal Pradesh still enjoys special protection status. That's why I pay a little more attention here to pass through Arunachal Pradesh. The Indians enjoy the advantage of an Inner Line Permit, which is easier and cheaper to obtain in many places. The fact that the permit for foreigners is only to be done in Guwahati, I was not clear in advance. I seem to have read the wrong info for Indian citizens, because when I arrived in Tezpur, Assam, where I hoped to get the permit, I was told it was only in Guwahati. So back to the bike and just 450 kilometers to Guwahati, get a permit and then back to Tezpur, from there take the highway to Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh. Itanagar is not really worth seeing and so I drove fast towards Ziro valley, the area where the Apatani tribe live. A very interesting area with extremely interesting people!
After three days stay there and a really great portrait, which I managed to do, I drove on in the direction of Daporijo. On the way there I was overtaken shortly before the arrival of a motorcycle cyclist, who was obviously traveling, that has betrayed his fully loaded porter. Since his motorbike was fully off-road, he overtook me quite relaxed and drove off. We met again when I found him sitting, having taken a short break at a beautiful viewpoint. And behold, it was a German, like me. I had previously met a single Indian during my entire journey, who, like me, traveled all over India with his motorbike and now I meet a compatriot with a motorbike in the middle of a dense banana jungle. What a coincidence! From Daporijo I moved further towards Mechuka and needed about 11 hours, it is about 160 km. On the way there, I was lucky, because I got through well despite Monsoon weather and only needed the time specified by google. But the return trip was very different. The same road I barely recognized. Because of the continuous rain, it came to massive disturbances on the already very poor road anyway. There were several landslides and if I had a car, I would have to wait for more than 24 hours as the road was blocked. For my motorbike but no problem in the first case here:
It can be seen clearly that the way is impassable for cars. Happy who is traveling there with a motorcycle!
The following picture made the crossing much more difficult. It may not be clear, but the boulders are sometimes huge and block the whole road to about 10 meters in length, a driving around impossible, you would land in the deep abyss.
When I arrived at the site, there were already about 10 SUVs waiting there and again so many army trucks, about 150 people. I was told that they would be waiting for 24 hours but the excavator is still working on the landslide before and would only arrive in a couple of hours. The waiting people mostly sat in the vehicles and played relaxed bingo, they were used to such circumstances, even in an emergency to wait several days and without any other basic care than their own food. I do not have such experiences, so of course I had no food, a broken bottle of water i had and somewhere in my huge box a small pack of biscuits. That's it, I thought. Now you are in the middle of the dense jungle, there are still 120 kilometers loose to Aalong and if not a miracle happens, then you can also play bingo to protect yourself from worries and hopefully forget everything around it. I still had the idea to ask the soldiers if they could help me carry my 200kg bike over the rocks, but a responsible officer refused the help on the grounds that it was too dangerous, it could slip at any time. I did agree with him. Furthermore, there was the danger that one pinched the foot somewhere while carrying or otherwise injured. I saw no way out of this situation but to wait. So I sat down on a stone and stared at the big boulders. After a few minutes, I saw a motorbike approaching from the other side. The driver stopped in front of the pile of stones, took off his rain gear and began to inspect the cairn. As he began to fill small stones in the gaping cracks between the bigger stones, I realized what he was up to, to move his motorcycle over the pile of stones in this way. After several minutes of preliminary work, he finally spoke to some of the bingo players and they helped him to carry his motorcycle over the stones and push. I watched this project very closely and when they arrived on my side including the bike, I jumped up and implored the same strong men to help me too. Most of them smiled very friendly and I already felt relieved. After just a few moments, I witnessed a miracle. 200 kg carried by 11 people over an actually impassable barrier. After only about three minutes, my bike was on the other side and everyone was out of breath but happy that they could help me. I especially! What an incredible experience! I can not thank all involved enough! They saved me from adventures that I renounce with joy. And how wonderful is it to see that people help and rejoice with you and are themselves affected and also know that they can do nothing for themselves. Further, they risked their health without mentioning it, and they too knew that this venture was connected with serious dangers. After this unforgettable fortune in the misfortune ride I left Arunachal Pradesh and headed for Sikkim, the last, unvisited state of the seven sisters, as the northeast of India is often called, since there are seven state
The Indian state of Sikkim is of breathtaking beauty, exactly between Nepal and Bhutan in the high Himalayas. The roads are partly passable, but there are also dizzying abysses, breakneck, steep serpenines with gravel or thick pebbles. All this is bearable, if you want scenic pastures or unforgettable trekking routes. The state is similar to Arunachal Pradesh or Meghalaya, an area located in many of the tribes. An interesting diversity of tradition and culture made me forget the time in Sikkim. Highly recommended for a visit!
On May 22, 2019, I passed the Indian-Nepalese border in Panitanki towards Kathmandu, the nepalese capital. The tourist visa, which I received from the Embassy of India in Germany, demands that you leave India for 24 hours after 180 days at the latest. The rule is designed to prevent foreigners from permanently settling in India. The Nepalese visa is on the border, it's not a big hassle, just US dollar should not be forgotten, because without this, no visa. Another advantage of Nepal is that as a foreigner you can take a motorcycle registered in India for a fee. This and the immediate proximity were the reasons why I went to Nepal. After visiting Kathmandu, I visited Gorkha, a small royal city in the center of Nepal, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. On the way there I met this very unusual and funny man on the below picture. He wore several pieces of clothing of the same kind at a time, even the shoes and glasses were duplicated.
Then I drove on to Pokhra, the second largest tourist center from Nepal. Pokhra is a city with a beautiful lake and surrounded by densely wooded hills.
June 18, 2019, I returned to India, this time via Sonauli, Uttar Pradesh and had the plan again to drive towards Kashmir, as it was only chasing winter and I now expected much better weather conditions. As I had already decided to stay in New Delhi and Varanasi in August, the project seemed a little short-lived and so I limited myself to the visit of Himachal Pradesh, an Indian state in the high Himalaya mountains, as the name implies. Rugged peaks, snow, bad roads, infinite fir forests, apple farmers and cannabis plants wherever the eye falls. I had imagined that I would photograph the familiar and characteristic faces of men and women. But it came, as almost always in India, very different. After spending a few days in Kasol, Himachal Pradesh and a short trip to Malana, I drove on to Tosh, a village about an hour and a half's drive away. I stayed there for about 4 weeks as the view from my hotel room impressed me a lot.
I have never had the opportunity to stay longer in such a place and it has been the best movie ever, on the biggest screen I have ever seen. One had not looked at the current view yet full and already the weather had enchanted the wonderful view of the Paravati valley and the crowning snow peak in another natural work of art. Every hour this scenario changed and only astonished me. Tosh, a wonderful place for rest, relaxation and unforgettable hikes.
I drove from Tosh to New Delhi end of July, parked my motorcycle in an underground car park there and flew to Varanasi for ten days. I returned to New Delhi in mid-August. Where to go? That was an important question for me at the time. Kashmir was too sensitive for me at the time, since there have been tensions since August 5, 2019, after some serious changes have taken place. The Indian government has withdrawn the rights of an Indian state for Jammu and Kashmir based on Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. At the same time, I had learned that the Internet and the telephone had been blocked in the whole region until further notice, had curfewed, almost all businesses and schools were closed. The German Foreign Office had also explicitly warned against a visit to Kashmir. So I quickly realized that I would not get far without an open gas station and what about the nights? I did not want any nasty surprises or stress with the Indian army and so I decided to wait. Since Rajasthan is almost around the corner of New Delhi, I went there, in already well-known areas and of course found many new motifs and got to know new interesting people.
This time I passed Rajasthan from the north to the south, visited a good friend in Balotra and this time I also looked at Udaipur, the famous royal city with the palaces on the lake. I actually avoid tourist centers and festivals, but since I was in the immediate vicinity, I decided to give the whole a chance. It was not worth it at all but you do not know something like that before, you can only guess it. After all, I now know what Udaipur looks like and that I never want to go there again, unless I have to do it for professional reasons.
I left Rajasthan on the 5th of September and headed for the great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. A barren steppe landscape, traversed by dry salt lakes. I love this area. It is inhabited by interesting people, most of whom follow the traditional way of life. While staying there, I followed up on the latest news regarding Kashmir and decided finally to go to the area in mid-September, even though the latest news has not turned out to be very inviting. I knew, now or not, that my visa for India expired on November 11th, and I did not know if I would get a new one in Nepal at the Indian Embassy, since a visa application can also be denied.
After passing Rajasthan and Punjab again bad roads, gravel, dangerous holes, infinitely fine dust from the trucks and unsecured hairpin bends past dizzying gorges but still a very adventurous ride in Jammu and Kashmir. On September 18th, I passed the border. Except for the lack of Internet and telephony I did not notice anything special in Jammu. I was not comfortable traveling without any mobile communication source but I had no choice but to go to Kashmir. I downloaded the corresponding map section from google and so I was able to use the map function offline anyway. On the 19th of September I reached Anantnag, Kashmir, after only driving through for three days, with overnight stays of course. It is the first major city in Kashmir on the way to Srinagar when traveling from the south across the road. Already after crossing the border to Kashmir I noticed a clear change. Virtually no people except for the soldiers of the Indian army. Just about all the shops were closed too, only pharmacies had opened and few gas stations on the highways. The entire education system has also been standing still for 40 days. The few people I saw driving by seemed somehow desperate and frustrated. The usual army presence for years seemed to have suddenly doubled or tripled. All in one a very depressing mood far and wide. I know a hotel manager who works in one of the few hotels there. I wanted to visit him and stay in this hotel also. When I arrived at the hotel, I found only locked doors and amazed soldiers of the Indian army. None of them spoke English and it was impossible to find out what is going on here. But since the only front door of the hotel with two thick padlocks was completed, I could probably think that in the hotel no one could be. I had the phone number of the known manager stored in my mobile phone but without an intact network no call possible. I had previously read on the internet that the hotels were open at the main tourist locations, so I did not waste time and drove on to Srinagar to arrive before dawn.
And indeed, I quickly found luxurious accommodation in Srinagar, which this time cost only a fraction of what is usually due at this hotel. The next day I left early in the morning to explore the current situation in the city center. Srinagar offered a similar picture of seclusion as Anantnag, the city before. Closed shops, depressed faces of the few citizens on the street and countless soldiers of the Indian army. After five days in Srinagar and desperate rides, on the hunt for exciting portraits, I gave up. Due to the depressed mood of the entire population of Kashmir and the hiding in their homes, I hardly got the opportunity for a good portrait. I had thought that it would not make any sense at present to try my luck elsewhere in Kashmir and so on the 26th of September I set off for Ladakh, the most eastern Part of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir. I had heard in Srinagar that immediately after the border of Kashmir the Internet would work. One more reason to get there as soon as possible.
The next day I left early in the morning. I made a stopover in Dras, a small town of wooden barracks. There was internet for the first time in seven days and I had access to social media again, only in an internet cafe, but still! In the early evening I reached Kargil, a district town in Ladakh, and lodged in a mediocre hotel, there was nothing better. I was amazed the next day when I explored the city. I have never seen a comparable population mixture before. Six different ethnic groups live side by side there and now their descendants, who have mixed with each other over time. Since I liked to take pictures of faces, it was as if I unexpectedly dug up a treasure chest. In addition, Kargil is frequented by very few photo hungry tourists and so can capture unadulterated impressions better.
After two days I left Kargil and drove further east to Leh, the capital of Ladakh. The whole distance from Srinagar to Leh is a must for anyone who appreciates motorcycle tours! You drive through breathtaking landscapes and the road quality is as good as consistently first-rate. In addition, the beautiful landscape changes so extremely during this ride, that one hardly comes out of the amazement. Around it only bulky mountains that look like painted and above the sky blue, which is all the more intense in the barren landscapes. Leh is located at 3500 meters and so it is much cooler there than in India generally. The city itself is an international tourist center and a sought after destination for many bikers. There is not really anything to see, measured by the rest of Ladakh. But in Leh you get a lot of useful information about the most beautiful destinations, you can buy there good trekking clothes and accessories cheap and there are countless tourist agencies that offer unforgettable trekking tours. I did not really have much time in Ladakh, as winter is gradually approaching in mid-October and the road connections to Ladakh are closed for the whole winter in early November and I did not want to spend the winter there. So I've decided to move two destinations to next year as they would take four to six days, definitely too much. In addition, you need a permit for many destinations in Ladakh, which can be applied for in any tourist agency. I had a permit for about 10 euros for everything, which was valid for two weeks and am drove in the early morning half the way back to Kargil. This time, however, I took another road, not quite as exciting as the previously described highway. My destination was the Aryan Valley, where you can find four villages inhabited by the Aryan tribe. Her story goes back to Alexander the Great and I was sure that I could take very good pictures there. There is also a guest house, which can even be found on google. I have marked this as my goal. When I arrived there in the afternoon, I saw only rocks and stones, as usual in this area, a very poorly-walled locked garage, and over it a rocky hill with poplars and apricot trees. From a village called Garkone no trace, let alone from a guest house. But since this guest house was the only one I found in this area on google and I did not want to waste time looking for and finding, I only had one choice, again to Kargil, about 120 miles on a bad and narrow street. I was annoyed that I went so far as to experience such an unpleasant surprise. On the way to Kargil I stopped in Batalik, a Muslim village which seemed very interesting to me. If you've never been to this area before, it's hard to imagine, but there are always checkpoints where you have to show your passport and permit, and that takes a lot of time. At the Batalik checkpoint I had asked the responsible soldier where it would go to Batalik, because the checkpoint crossing was very confusing. He denied me access to it with the words "border area". In fact, Batalik borders Pakistan and there are connecting dirt roads. After several phone calls with the responsible officer it turned out that I would need a permit for Batalik, which I would only get in Kargil. Damn, I was in Kargil and nobody had told me anything about a permit, everyone told me that a permit is only available in Leh and in Leh they assured me that I can travel to Batalik with the 20-page fully printed and still misleading permit. So what now? In fact, I needed a permit from the district town of Kargil, as it turned out in the end. I had then been granted to enter the first part of the village without the official permit. The other two parts of the village are closed to non-residents. Why and what happened there should not be betrayed to me, it was said. Everything very mysterious and at the same time very annoying for me, because time is unstoppable. It was too late when the soldiers took pity. I had to keep going so as not to drive from Batalik towards Kargil at dawn. I finally arrived in Kargil late in the evening, tired and cold. The hotel was worse and more expensive than the one before there, no internet, no hot water. Well-known facts, in this case even more frustrating. The next day, I visited a travel agency and clarified the question of the disappeared village of Garkone. There should actually be a village there and also the guest house. So two days later I drove back the 120 kilometers. I stopped again in Batalik and looked at the allowed part of the village. I was not particularly impressed, so I drove on into the unknown, to Garkone, the village of the Aryans, correctly referred to as the Dard tribe. I stopped at the garage, which I had noticed before as a civilized component amidst the scree and rocks. And lo and behold, GUESTHOUSE was painted on one of the rocks, in almost the same color as the stone itself, and next to it a small arrow pointing upwards. Wow! How should I get up there with about 35 kg of luggage? And: how high and how far is it at all? A lot of unanswered questions that I was forced to pursue. I looked at the arrow and immediately discovered a second, which was about 5 to 7 meters above my head. Very cleverly solved! Since you could always see at least two arrows, the pathfinding seemed quite easy from now on. The way itself, however, was a boundless impudence or an exercise path for professional athletes and I am not. After a ten-minute climb and very heavy breathing, I saw the first dwellings and felt suddenly as if I were in the Shire and it came over me a very comfortable feeling.
Later I hauled up my main luggage, 25 kg. At a height of 3000 meters, every step upwards is very difficult and if you have to lift a considerable weight in addition to your own body, you will hardly get any air after a couple of such steps. Now I have a very little idea how fit a sherpa must be to haul up 40 kg of about 3000 meters at an initial height of 5350 meters. Fortunately, I only had to go about 100 meters high. The days in Garkone, Darchicks, and Dah just faded away. It was wonderful to be there for a whole festival series because it was celebrated every day while I was there. I also learned to love the Dard tribe. So hospitable and heart warm people! Only with body hygiene, the good ones do not have it. And everywhere there are flies that you can not get rid of and that constantly sting your eyes. I had thought long in Garkone whether I should venture with my vehicle to take the highway from Leh to Manali, which acts as the most dangerous road in the world in the media. As an alternative, there were more than twice the route length with only a small proportion of dangers over Srinagar. On October 12, I drove back to Leh and embarked on the adventure of traversing the most dangerous road in the world. I had even considered in Leh myself whether I should really dare or better drive the double distance over Srinagar back. It would then be almost 1000 km instead of 480 km, both on mountain roads and that is a clear difference from the time spent ago. In addition, it was getting very cold in Leh, at night even below freezing. Leh had already spoken of the first snowfall and related road closures in Ladakh. At the police station, I was told that the road to Manali was clear and I could drive. Alright!
LEH TO MANALI HIGHWAY
On October 19, 2019, I drove off and figured it could not be that bad to drive down there, because I've already mastered some really terrifying roads and all that too much. The first 250 km was also a breeze although it crossed the highest pass of the track, Tanglang La,
5325 m, as the road was fully developed.
When I passed Pong in the afternoon, consisting of two sheet metal barracks, a queasy feeling suddenly came over me, I had no idea why and I decided to warm up in the cafe there, if possible. In front of the cafe I saw a parked motorcycle. Now I realized why I felt uncomfortable. I had not met or overtaken a single motorcyclist on the whole track and I had been traveling for several hours. I only saw few trucks and SUVs. Throughout India, even on the worst roads, there are always motorcycles. But here was only this one and it made me happy again. I had a great hope that the driver would go in the same direction and that we would drive together from now on. When I entered the warm room, I saw a happy face and we quickly arranged to drive together. It is also a very stupid and irresponsible idea to go there alone at the end of October but you only know that afterwards. I urge everyone to try it, because you can easily freeze to death if you get stuck in the snow, apart from the whole range of other deadly dangers lurking everywhere. There is no mobile phone or roadside assistance patrolling there. You are completely on your own and that for many miles on a road that certainly teaches fear. Me and my companion first thought we would be in Manali after one day and we needed three at the end. After we had warmed up by the fire and have discussed everything necessary, we left together the cafeteria, in which you could also spend the night and made it to Sarchu, a village that consisted of about 20 metal barracks along the road. Until then, the road was continuously harmless except for two dry riverbeds that we had to pass. In Sarchu we slept on a wooden platform and covered ourselves with 20 kilogram heavy blankets. Actually, such stinking and clunky blankets are very uncomfortable for me, but given the freezing cold of -15 degrees Celsius, I was really happy about that. The next morning we waited until 12 o'clock in the afternoon in the hope that the supposed, expected snow in the sun melts something. At the same time we lurked on vehicles that came from the opposite direction to ask the drivers for the road conditions. We had already been told on site, that the white hell should start around the corner. I could not even picture it and after we interviewed a truck driver from the desired direction, who told us again "road clear", we decided to continue driving. It actually turned out to be right around the corner. The snow now reached the edge of the road and the first patches of snow mingled with the mud, which from then on functioned as the main road surface. Shortly thereafter, we were forced by the Border Roads Organisation to drive another river bed, this time filled with torrential water, consisting mostly of football-sized pebbles, running uphill and lashing a perpetually ice-cold water in the face on a lenght of around 200 meters. What a bottomless impudence, I thought at that moment, but it was going to get worse soon. We came over stone and slush to a point where the road path disappeared completely and it went steeply downhill, straight into a mixture of small ponds and several, raging river arms and in between tiny stone-covered islands. About 200 to 300 meters behind it was an indefinable, spectacular, filling the whole valley something that somehow reminded of a mixture of hazardous waste landfill and an ancient oversized workshop, from the far view. In the first place it was noticeable that the surrounding landscape was completely blackened by the action of this something. Furthermore, several black smoke billows rose from the something against the sky and it was littered with flattened metal barrels, which originally seemed to be filled with bitumen, commonly used as a binder for asphalt production. In addition, it was swarming with people and yellow construction vehicles. Anyone who has seen the movie Lord of the Rings and remembers what it looked like behind the gate to Mordor, the evil world, can now visualize the surroundings. Only the gate you have to think away and think of very high white mountain tops around it. We left the motorcycles and walked into the raging waters to find the best way for our vehicles. In the meantime, from the seedy factory, we have been made clear with gestures and shouts that there should be another way to get to the other side. In fact, a very dilapidated bridge was on the right, but it seemed as if it would collapse at any moment. In addition, the driveway was provided with an impassable row of huge stones. But we decided to take these calls seriously and returned to the motorcycles. I noticed immediately that the rear tire of my motorcycle was flat. Nice shit, I thought. But luck in misfortune, the workshop needed for it was directly opposite. After several trips with an excavator back and forth, an astronomical calculation and three hours later I was finally ready to try the bridge. We pushed the disturbing stones aside and drove very carefully on thin rusted metal sheet over an already crookedly hanging bridge. Done! I was very happy and thought that the worst was over now. The smoking something turned out to be a central part of the Border Roads Organization, responsible for the seasonal road construction there. I saw people and living conditions there, which made my jaw drop but I did not think for a moment to go get my camera, because I was already in a fight for survival, I just did not hear it at the time. In my head a voice kept saying: forward! Come on! Forward! We continue our journey at 3 pm. Already from the factory high up on the mountainside I could see several trucks on the further track, which did not move a centimeter forward and when we turned the first corner, the road began to cover itself more and more with snow. It also went uphill mountain and my repaired rear tire had another problem, the already very inappropriate tire profile, which was designed for highways, was badly worn. I had already noticed it clearly in turns before. But now the vehicle was constantly in the spin, additionally burdened by the heavy metal box behind. I was forced to reduce the speed to the lowest, first gear, and had always ground contact with both feet and yet I fell six times, whenever I had to maneuver my motorcycle out of an rock-hard ice groove, which has been pressed by truck tires. The uprising of the overturned motorcycle became increasingly difficult from time to time. My powers dwindled and I did not get enough oxygen. At 4000 m, the oxygen content is only about 60% compared to 0 m. You are always permanently under-supplied with oxygen at this altitude and if you make a physical effort, you quickly become short of breath. You have to concentrate completely on breathing in order to breathe normally again and it takes a long time. It also gives you the constant fear that you might die of respiratory distress right away, making it difficult to concentrate on breathing considerably. I seriously wished I did not breathe, at least for the section of snow. The tears came on the fifth fall and I could not pick up my bike alone. However, my companion came after and helped me picking up. It took up to ten minutes to get the engine running again with every crash, all lost time. In addition, I had to slither right there along the deep abyss, because the stuck trucks took up the entire road width. The iced up serpentine ended on a plateau. I have no idea how I made it to the top in the snow with my tires, it was a real miracle. I suddenly saw a landscape that is certainly no different around Mount Everest i guess. Everything was wrapped in white and surrounded by many white giants carrying their very sharp teeth on top of their heads. It was definitely the most beautiful and scary landscape I have ever seen. There was a dynamic in that mountains that can not be described in words. However, I did not think much of photography at that moment. I just thought: "go ahead, go forward!" The snow-covered plateau was once again decorated with trucks that did not come forward. It went on up, but not so steep. Nevertheless, the lugging around the trucks was constantly associated with danger of falling and I stopped once, was the renewed start just as always a fall. I moved forward only by the meter and especially used the ruts, which were pressed in by snow chains. The resulting profile has given my worn rear tire still the best grip. It was incredibly exhausting to keep the heavily loaded motorcycle under control and lead, especially since it is a cruiser, long wheelbase and a far forward protruding handlebar. The seating position is also very unfavorable for driving in the snow. In addition the shortness of breath, an ambient temperature of about -15 degrees Celsius and a gusty wind, hardly any fuel, constantly lurking abysses and the uncertainty, how long it should go on. When the plateau went down again a bit, it was much easier to move forward at walking pace. There were more precipices, unfavorable trucks and ice snow as a surface, but downhill it was very easy after the previous experience. We came to a spot from which you could see the road far down in the valley and it was black. The darkness was beginning to break around us. When we reached the snow-free street, it was already dark. We knew that in 20 kilometers there is a place with a hotel, so we had no choice but to continue driving. The rest of the way was very bumpy and head-sized pebbles appeared out of nowhere on the pitch-dark road. Still, it was all a breeze compared to the white hell before. We reached a cozy guesthouse in Jispa at 9pm, were frozen to the bone and extremely exhausted. Quick to eat something, a warm foot bath, because for a hot shower, the scarce amount of water was not enough and it was much too cold and sleep anyway. The next morning, all my bones hurt like never before, I could hardly move because of the day before and the hard bed made my pain even worse. But something can be sustained and it will be better if you move again. So we drove briskly on again as we had to drive 140 km to Manali and the dreaded Rohtang La pass was still ahead of us. The owner of the guesthouse has assured us quite believably that the road there is free of snow. Although the Rohtang La pass is the smallest of the four mountain passes that you have to pass on this route, it is the one the winter road is closed by the Border Roads organization. It forms a massive climatic barrier and so it snows almost year round and intense there. The entire route on this day was very easy to master, being on a snow-free and developed road. It was like heaven after yesterday's hell, but unfortunately the scenery was not so breathtaking anymore. For me it was quite right and I was anyway only with the thoughts of the upcoming Rohtang La pass. But this, no problem. The well-developed road went mostly down the mountain and the fresh snow reached knees up to the roadside, but the road itself was properly cleared. Hundreds of people stood there on the slopes and had their snow fun. The Rohtang La pass is a very popular and highly frequented destination for tourists traveling to Manali. Therefore, this stretch of road is kept free of snow as long as possible. In the afternoon we reached Manali and the ride was finally over but also the most daring and best adventure of my life. However, this has left its mark, which I never want to miss. On the one day of the white hell I learned so much, as in many years not. I have experienced my limitations clearly, learned how tiny I am and I was spared over three whole hours of death, who looked at me there clearly. This experience is priceless.
That's why I write the experience so detailed and I hope it has reached you. And for anyone who wants to ride this route by motorbike: do not go there alone at the end of September! Consider fuel for at least 600 km because you consume significantly more! Ensures good tires and very fit brakes! And drive carefully! Otherwise everyone as he likes it : ) It is to be created!
SOME MORE RECOMMENDATIONS
In Manali, Himachal Pradesh, I have spent a day recovering from the hardships of the past few days and together with my faithful companion drove on to New Delhi. I have a workshop that I trust very much and so I had my motorcycle overhauled there. Then I drove to Varanasi and on to Kathmandu, Nepal. My one-year tourist visa for India expired in a few days and a new one had to come. The easiest and cheapest way to do such a thing is to travel to a neighboring country of India and apply for a new visa at the Indian Embassy. One should, however, in advance in the Internet to ask where, for whom and what exactly to do, otherwise there can be nasty surprises. For me and my motorcycle, Nepal is the ultimate visa renewal travel destination. Because there you can drive as a foreigner for a fee with a motorcycle registered in India (registration card needed, rented motorcycles are not possible). The visa is cheap and very easy to buy at every border crossing, just remember US dollars! Some border crossings only accept cash payments in US dollars! And it's pretty close. You can get more information online very quickly, I only mentioned the most important things, because this is not a consulting blog, but my personal travel blog, so back to that. This time I took a route in Nepal to Kathmandu, which, not unexpectedly, reminded me of a bumpy country lane but called itself Highway. On the Indian side, in the north of Bihar, the continuation of this road is indeed developed as a two-lane highway, but there is no faster than in Nepal, because this highway reminds of a hard bombed area. It consists of nothing but craters that adorn the entire street. I have not really seen such a joke before. The border town is called in India Raxaul and in Nepal Birganj. If you are looking for extreme road adventure, then gold is right in both directions. I'm not looking for something but google forces such a connection on. I wish there was an option on google that could differentiate well-built roads from chassis-destroying traps, definitely missing for India! Do not trust google in India! Whoever is responsible for registering streets at google should do so seriously, because all the streets that are not marked in yellow can be impassable in many different ways: not available, not connected, flooded, besieged by animals or other unexpected things. So always drive well on yellow roads and never agree to a route change, if google one reports a road closure and proposes to bypass the block. You always can pass through somehow with a motorcycle at road closures on yellow marked roads, I have not experienced it otherwise. You only lose time and ruin the vehicle if you agree to bypasses here on google India. But now back to Kathmandu again. It took me 10 days to get a new Indian visa. In Kathmandu, however, you can usually only get a tourist visa, which is valid for six months, grants a double entry and wants to have you out of India for a maximum of 90 days for at least 24 hours. However, it is allowed to apply for a one-year visa, paying about 110 euros for it, but will not get anything back later if only half a year is granted. A very strange logic. But in the meantime, there is a much better alternative. If you travel to India via the flight path, you can apply for the e-visa, which is much easier to apply, you pay 30 euros less and you can apply for up to five years validity on multiple entries and exits. But my visa application was already in progress when I learned the sensational conditions for the e-visa. Next time. I left Nepal on the 12th of November finally getting the new Indian visa and choosing the Indian state of Jharkhand as my next destination, where I have not been before.
I've been in the Indian state of Jharkhand for 15 days, visiting several cities there and, as always, I've walked a lot. Usually, after 15 days I would have taken a lot of useable photos. But in Jharkhand I have not succeeded in one. Since I no longer had any hopes for this, I have also completely stopped going out and looking for motives, but concentrated completely on the transformation and completion of my website.
I have visited Bhubaneshwar, the capital of the state first. It got after two days very boring and I proceeded to Puri, a holy city in Odisha located at the east coast of India. There, I had again the imagination of real India. Very lively and chaotic streets with the smells of the common daily life. My main interest in Odisha was to find a to photograph the tribe people there. But since I had two important inquiries to be done in Kolkata, I went there.
24.12. 2019: Actually I am in Kolkata and will turn back to Odisha on January 2020, 02.
This feed will be updated on February 2020, 01.